The man accused of masterminding the shooting death of legendary rapper Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas in 1996 has made his first court appearance on a murder charge.
Duane “Keffe D” Davis, 60, a self-described gangster, stood shackled, wearing a dark-blue jail uniform and plastic orange slippers on Wednesday at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas.
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Davis was scheduled to be arraigned on a murder charge, but the hearing was cut short after he asked Clark County District Judge Tierra Jones to postpone the hearing while he retains counsel in Las Vegas.
Davis was arrested last week and charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Shakur.
He had long acknowledged his involvement in the slaying, boasting he was the “on-site commander” in the effort to kill Shakur and Death Row Records boss Marion “Suge” Knight in revenge for an assault on his nephew.
Davis also publicly admitted his role in the killing in interviews ahead of his 2019 tell-all memoir, Compton Street Legend.
Prosecutors allege Shakur’s killing stemmed from rivalry and competition for dominance in the “gangsta rap” scene in the mid-1990s. The dispute pitted East Coast members of the “Bloods” gang, which was associated with rap music mogul Knight, against West Coast members of the “Crips” gang that Davis has said he led in Compton, California, at the time.
Shakur was signed to Knight’s Death Row Records.
Tension escalated in Las Vegas on the night of September 7, 1996, when a brawl broke out between Shakur and Davis’s nephew, Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, at the MGM Grand hotel-casino following a heavyweight championship boxing match won by Mike Tyson.
Knight and Shakur went to the fight, as did members of the South Side Crips, prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo said last week in court. After the casino brawl, Knight drove a BMW with Shakur in the front passenger seat. The car was stopped at a red light near the Las Vegas Strip when a white Cadillac pulled up on the passenger side and gunfire erupted.
Davis has said he was in the front passenger seat of the Cadillac and handed a .40-caliber handgun to his nephew in the back seat, from which he said the shots were fired.
Shot multiple times, Shakur died a week later at age 25. Knight was grazed by a bullet fragment but survived. Now 58, Knight is serving a 28-year prison sentence for running over and killing a Compton businessman outside a burger stand in January 2015.
Among the four people in the Cadillac that night, Davis is the only one who is still alive.
Anderson died in a May 1998 shooting in Compton. Before his death, Anderson denied involvement in Shakur’s death. The other backseat passenger, DeAndre “Big Dre” or “Freaky” Smith, died in 2004. The driver, Terrence “Bubble Up” Brown, died in a 2015 shooting in Compton.
Mopreme Shakur, Tupac’s stepbrother, was not in court on Wednesday but told The Associated Press news agency that he has been following developments in the case from his home in Los Angeles, even as he and his family are “trying to manage our expectations”.
“Young Black men often deal with delayed justice because we’re often viewed as the criminals,” Shakur said.
“So justice has been delayed for quite some time – in spite of all the eyes, all the attention, despite the celebrity of my brother.”
Sheriff Kevin McMahill, who oversees the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, has acknowledged criticism that his agency was slow to investigate Shakur’s killing.
“That was simply not the case,” McMahill said. He called the investigation “important to this police department”.